Hooray for Maryland History!; Baltimore Painted Screens


The subjects of Baltimore painted screens come from many different sources: comics, greeting cards and customer requests. Favorite designs include a red-roofed house in the country, religious scenes, and Elvis Presley. What picture would you paint on your screen?

Now you can make your own painted screen!

Materials: 12" x 12" piece of charcoal screen wire, piece of dark construction paper, tape, crayons or colored chalk


1. Applying tape at the corners, attach the piece of construction paper to the screen wire as a backing.

2. Using crayons or chalk, draw a picture on the screen.

3. Remove the construction paper backing. Now you have your own painted screen!

Where do you go when you want to see paintings? Museums, art galleries and art classes at your school are good places to see art, but you can also see art in your own community! Walk down the street in many East Baltimore neighborhoods and you can enjoy brightly painted window and door screens.

The tradition of painting door and window screens for decoration and privacy began in 1913 in Baltimore when William Oktavec painted a screen to shade the fruit at his corner grocery store. Soon, people from other neighborhoods were asking Oktavec to paint their screens.

By the 1930s, there were almost 100,000 painted door and window screens in East Baltimore. Today, this tradition is declining. It is estimated that there are fewer than 3,000 painted screens in Baltimore.

When you visit the Maryland Historical Society, you can learn more about screen painting in the museum's Celebrating the Baltimore City Life Collections exhibition.

Maryland Historical Society

201 West Monument Street, Baltimore



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